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Greenpeace finds toxic kids’ toys

By Lee I-chia, July 05, 2012

Nine out of 12 children’s toy items sold in Taiwan contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals or a variety of plasticizers that could be harmful to children, Greenpeace Taiwan said yesterday.

The group tested toys, including beach balls, plastic toy animals, plastic balls, inflatable pools and children’s raincoats bought from chain stores in Taipei, for toxicity. Six items contained plasticizers above the regulated standard and six contained nonylphenol (NP) — an organic compound that might cause faster maturity in women and shrinking testes in men — Greenpeace’s campaigner in charge of toxins Ann Lee (李之安) said, adding that NP is banned in the EU as hazardous to human and environmental safety. In Taiwan, according to the Chinese National Standards 4797 for regulation of children’s utilities, listed by the Bureau of Standards, Metrology and Inspection, the total percentage of eight kinds of plasticizers — dimethyl phthalate, diethyl phthalate, di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP), butylbenzyl phthalate (BBP), diisononyl phthalate, diisodecyl phthalate and di-n-octyl phthalate (DNOP) — may not exceed 0.1 percent of the item’s weight. However, all of the children’s raincoats that were tested contained amounts of plasticizers exceeding the bureau’s regulations, with one item containing 196 times the allowed amount, Lee said.

“Children often sweat inside their raincoats and their skin might be exposed to the plasticizers, affecting their endocrine system,” Lee said. Furthermore, based on the Toxic Chemical Substances Control Act (毒性化學物質管理法) enforced by the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA), four kinds of plasticizers found in the items — DEHP, DNOP, BBP and DBP — are prohibited in the manufacture of utilities for children under 14 years old. “Abuse of toxic chemical substances is seriously threatening everyone’s health,” Lee said. “The government’s passive management and fragmented regulations has led to 99.5 percent of chemical substances in Taiwan being non-regulated, like chemical outlaws, unfettered and beyond the reach of the law.”

According to the Council of Labor Affairs’ National Existing Chemical Substance Inventory Information System, more than 64,000 types of chemicals are used in Taiwan, of which about 19,000 could be hazardous to human health, Lee said, adding that the Toxic Chemical Substances Control Act only listed 298 toxic substances under control. Another problem is that the Toxic Chemical Substances Control Act only regulates products made in Taiwan, so among the 12 items tested, only a set of Taiwan-manufactured toy animals were in violation of the act, while other imported toy items containing DEHP did not count as violating the act, she said.

“The bad management of chemical substances and failure of regulations have already forced children to become victims,” Lee said. The group urged the EPA to enforce the precautionary principle for overall management of chemical substances, evaluate the health risks of non-registered chemicals and formulate a priority checklist of banned toxic chemicals.